BEHIND THE QUIET MORE THAN A SHORT –
Filmmaker Lauren Fash and Producer/Actress/Writer Susan Graham heeded a call. No, not my phone call, but rather, one from a higher source on the evolutionary plane. It led to their collaboration on the powerful new short, Quiet, which Lauren directed and Susan produced/wrote, and starred in, opposite Jaclyn Betham. I’d rather not hedge your expectations by saddling it with expository spoilers – let’s just let it suffice to say this moving short explores a love story, twists of fate, and the meaning of family in a way that’ll resonate for anyone who’s ever been in love. I had the opportunity to chat with the ladies over the phone last week in preparation of it being shown at this year’s ShortFest.
TBL: Right before the credits roll, the film is dedicated to the memory of Lisa Pond. Who was she, and how did she inspire this film?
Lauren Fash: When we were coming up with the idea for Quiet we came across a story about a woman named Janice Langbehn, and she was actually denied the right to say goodbye to her partner, Lisa Pond, in the hospital in Miami in 2007. We read about the incident – basically they were on vacation with their small children and it was their 15-year anniversary. They were in Miami getting ready to leave on a cruise and Lisa collapsed. She was taken to the hospital in Miami. When Janice went there, a social worker walked up to her and said, ‘You’re in an antigay city and you don’t have any rights here and if you don’t show me this, this and this, you’re not going to see her.’
LF: Yeah, So Janice said, ‘I do have those legal documents.’ She had the power or attorney and a living will; they had done everything because Janice was sick with MS. They had already gone through all these extremes that most straight couples don’t go through – you don’t think about that stuff until later in life. So they refused to let her see her. They refused to let her say goodbye. They only told her she was dying. They wouldn’t let the children in to see her or say goodbye to their mother. We read this article and we were horrified by it.
Janice actually got in touch with us right before we started filming and I talked to her for about 1½ hours. She told me the entire story. She’s the one who told me the social worker said it was an ‘antigay state.’ I tried to put it in the movie but I just couldn’t. It was so heavy-handed I wasn’t sure anybody would believe it.
So this project has morphed into much more. I see on IMDB that you are doing an actual documentary about their story now, correct?
LF: Right. So we’ve been in touch with Janice for over the past year and half. When the film was completed we flew to Washington to show her the film at her house, and we met her for the first time. We got a crew together to film Janice’s reaction to the film. I was so moved by just talking to her over the phone, and by her story and the way she told it and I just felt we needed to share it with people. We literally had her look into the camera and tell her story and we’ve made it into a short documentary.
We’re making a feature version of Quiet, as well.
OK, I was going to ask, because it seems like so many Shorts these days are shopping them to make a feature.
LF: A lot of filmmakers do this, it’s kind of like insurance. It’s like, ‘Hey, this is what I can do, this is my potential and the potential of the story.’ And that’s what we did with Quiet. As our relationship with Janice evolved and the project evolved, we realized the most powerful thing in Quiet was Janice herself. Quiet [the film at ShortFest] was inspired by her story, so it was fictional characters.
In the feature we’ve decided to tell her story and literally cast her and Lisa and their children as well. I mean these women were saints, you know? I think anyone watching this movie cannot argue the fact that what happened to them was wrong and this needs to change. It’s wrong in our country and it’s time to make it right.
Susan, how did you get involved in this?
Susan Graham: I worked on a couple of things [with Lauren] before and I think Lauren mentioned the article about Lisa. I always knew that I wanted to do a short film about patient medical rights in some way, because I thought it was powerful. I’m familiar with medicine in general coming from a medical family and I thought her story was so heartbreaking. At the time, I didn’t want to stick to it too exact because – our different artistic rights, and we were trying to do something a little different with this short film. But through time and getting to know Janice we want to do that for the feature.
And, in looking to create the short film I just wanted to have the best story teller I could, so I got with Lauren and we teamed up and co-wrote the short and co-produced it and she directed it and I’m in it.
In Quiet, the feature length film, you said it is actually going to be Janice’s story?
LF: Yes. It’ll basically be, the film will be about their relationship and also showcase that event so people can see who this happened to. [They were] not just your everyday couple. They literally raised 25 foster children – most of whom were either disabled or HIV positive. They legally adopted four children. Their first son suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. They are just lovely, caring people and for this to happen to them, of all people, it’s just heartbreaking!
Do you think with the feature film you are looking for a broader audience? I think there are a lot of people in the heterosexual community that don’t even realize these civil rights are being denied.
LF: This is going to educate people on a subject that a lot of people know nothing about. You know, there’s this argument going on around the country about gay marriage and well, “it’s a sacred act” and all that. At the heart of it, it’s a human right, and this film showcases the importance of having the same rights so everyone is protected.
You are bringing up the fact that we, as a society, have to look at a broader definition of “family.” How do you think this film is going to start that dialog?
SG: I think that’s a great question, we haven’t been asked that. One of things we focused on in the short film is we really wanted to show how for a lot of young people, (but for especially the homosexual community), our friends, our family, our families have not accepted them. But I think Janice and Lisa created a family in a nontraditional way – but it didn’t make them any less their kids, or their mothers.
I think it’s a really beautiful, wonderful and important story that everyone can identify with. We all relate to the themes of love and loss. And that’s why this film isn’t just for the LGBT community. It’s for people who may have not thought about this issue, in that way. A personal connection with something that changes your mind. And for Janice and Lisa there’s no way to get around the fact that there was a huge, huge injustice.
If You Go –
Quiet is part of the “Love, Lust and Other L Words” Program, Sunday , June 24th at 3 pm, at Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs.